"Glass Voices"

Glass Voices by Carol Bruneau

At long last I got a copy of this book into my eager hands. I've been reading about it for a long time and finally was able to get a copy through the local library. It had been described to me as a novel about the Halifax explosion, referring to the accidental explosion of a munitions ship in the Halifax, NS harbor in 1917.Because it happened in my corner of the world, I've been interested in reading more about it to get a better idea of who was affected and how. I know that 2000 people were killed and 9000 injured and that there was a horrific amount of damage, but I thought a novel would give me a better feeling for how people's lives were impacted.

The main characters are a married couple, Harry and Lucy, who have two children, one of whom is lost in the explosion and the other of whom enters the world amidst the chaos of that horrible day. The story is told from Lucy's point of view and begins with the now elderly Harry experiencing a massive stroke. As Lucy adjusts to her changed circumstances she looks back over the years at how the disaster changed their lives and brought them to this point.

The novel does deal with the explosion, but only as the event that catapults Lucy and Harry into the lives they live out in the book. Then the story moves back and forth between the years immediately following that event and the 1960's, the "present day" of the book. I was disappointed that the story wasn't what I hoped it would be, but I decided to give it a chance and keep reading.

There was something about the writing that didn't appeal to me. I found the flow of the narrative broken up in places, made a little confusing with too many similes and metaphors. Sometimes it seemed like every thought Lucy had included a figure of speech and some of them were odd, without a clear meaning, like "when Lucy wakes the air in the room tastes black."  um...? Other than that the writing was ok, the dialogue realistic and natural. There was more "language" than I like but that's a personal preference.

In addition to not enjoying the writing, I didn't like any of the characters. Lucy is fairly interesting, but I kept wishing she'd stand up to her husband. At the beginning of the book I didn't like Harry, then that developed into an active dislike, and by the end of the book I hated him. I did feel some pity for him as a stroke victim, how could anyone not, but I couldn't get past his vulgar behavior, his coarse treatment of his wife and his apparent belief that being a father brought with it no responsibility. It's not that I think him unrealistic, on the contrary, he's all too real and reminds me of several men I know. Harry made me very angry.

"Glass Voices" is an unhappy book from the beginning, then in the last chapter one more tragedy is thrown in and the story ends. My feeling about it can be described in some of the author's own words: it was "gloomy enough to make you jump in front of a train."  I really wish I could say something better.

This is a Canadian book, but it's not one of the 13 I had chosen to read for the Canadian Book Challenge hosted by Book Mine Set. I'll include it as an extra one for that challenge.


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